Updated: August 5, 2023 | Has affiliate links

7 Beautiful Things To Do In La Jolla (with Map)

Kayakers exploring the rugged cliffs at La Jolla California

La Jolla is a quintessential beach town nestled on the San Diego coast. La Jolla has become famous for its dramatic and picturesque coast as well as the many sea animals and birds that roam around the rigged cliffs. A favorite for locals and tourists alike, La Jolla is definitely a family destination, having lots of things to do for small kids and teenagers alike. So, come along with me as we explore the coolest things to do in La Jolla California.

Visiting San Diego has always been a lot of fun for our family. In particular, we always made it a point to stop in La Jolla even if for only a few hours, as our kids always enjoyed watching the sea lions and many birds resting on the rugged shores. From its gorgeous beaches to the many animals let’s explore together my favorite things to do in La Jolla.

What to Expect when Visiting La Jolla?

La Jolla is one of the most beautiful areas in Southern California. We certainly love visiting and exploring this amazing place. Here is a walking map of La Jolla, containing the main attractions.

Walking map of La Jolla California
Walking map of La Jolla
Red-see, Green-walk
See my photos from La Jolla

1. La Jolla Shores Beach

Enjoying La Jolla Shores Beach is one of the favorite things to do in La Jolla
People enjoying the beautiful La Jolla Shores Beach
See my photos from La Jolla

One of the popular things to do in La Jolla is to visit La Jolla Shores Beach. As a large and beautiful beach, it is great for kids because it is shallow at the shore. The location has permanent lifeguard stations, which are patrolled by San Diego Lifeguards. Novice scuba classes are held here. It is a great place to watch the sunset, and tide pools become visible at low tide. Enjoyed for amazing views, La Jolla Shores Beach has free parking and is a short walk from the parking lot. It’s a top outing for picnicking, playing in the water, people watching and laying in the sunshine. Kayakers enter the south end of the beach to see La Jolla Caves and enjoy the other water accessible sites.

2. Kayak the Underwater Park

Kayaking along the shore is one of the fun things to do in La Jolla
Sea lion swimming around a small kayak at La Jolla
See my photos from La Jolla

Secondly, one of the most fun things to do in La Jolla is to kayak along the dramatic shore. Rent a kayak and paddle to the Caves Cove. When the sea is mild, you can go inside the cove. Sea lions mate and have pups here, they lay on the rocky beach, giving visitors the opportunity to get close and take pictures. This beautiful area has miles of shore cliffs to explore having become a popular place for nature lovers to enjoy. The cove is small, but has very clear calm waters, making it easy for children to snorkel. Inflatables and floatation devices are not allowed in the cove itself. Kayaking in the Underwater Park is one of the exciting things to do in La Jolla. This is a 6000 acre Ecological Reserve which includes the underwater canyons from La Jolla Cove to La Jolla Shores Beach. Snorkeling and scuba diving are also popular activities here.

3. Walk Coast Boulevard

Palm trees line up Coast Boulevard at La Jolla
Palm trees line up Coast Boulevard at La Jolla
See my photos from La Jolla

If you start walking from the Cave store, or where you find parking, continue along Coast Boulevard and the walking path by the sea front. There are several stairways leading down to small beach areas. Seals and sea lions are visible along this walk. Along the way you will pass Kellogg Park, which is a large grassy park along La Jolla Shores and has an area for children to run and play. This is one of the peaceful things to do in La Jolla and provides many opportunities for taking beautiful pictures.

4. Hike Coast Walk Trail

Dramatic shore seen from the Coast Walk Trail in La Jolla
Dramatic shore seen from the Coast Walk Trail in La Jolla
See my photos from La Jolla

From the Cave store pick up the trail and go toward La Jolla Beach following the bluffs overlooking the marine park. Coast Walk Trail is believed to have been used for over 9,000 years and was originally intended to be used as a road in the 1920s. This walk is short, but beautifully scenic off Torrey Pines Road just to the north of Prospect Street. Along the route it is fun to look for wildlife like sea lions, colorful birds and creatures in the tide pools. A self-guided history tour is available. This is one of the scenic things to do in La Jolla, an activity that the whole family can enjoy.

5. Watch Sea Animals and Birds

Sea lions resting in the sun at La Jolla
Sea lions resting in the sun at La Jolla
See my photos from La Jolla

La Jolla Coast and Cove are where you can watch beautiful sea creatures in their own habitat. La Jolla is the best place in San Diego to watch sea lions and seals, in particular the Children’s Pool allows visitors to observe seals from land. These marine mammals have completely taken over this area, and you can walk along the seawall to see the spunky creatures up close. They are used to people, so exercising caution around them is a good idea. Even though the Children’s Pool is closed from December 15th to May 15th to protect the newborn seal pups, you can still watch them from Coast Boulevard.

Right after the Children’s Pool, you can walk Coast Blvd and find sea lions perched on the rocks. Additionally, a kayak or paddleboard can be rented to explore the ocean and its creatures. With rocky outcroppings, cliffs, secluded coves and rugged shoreline, La Jolla has plenty of interesting birds like shorebirds, gulls, Brown Pelican and occasionally a Peregrine Falcon. As one of the things to do in La Jolla, observing beautiful wildlife makes for a memorable experience while visiting this exquisite city.

6. Hike Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve

View of La Jolla Beach from a location close to Torrey Pines State Park
View of La Jolla Beach from a location close to Torrey Pines State Park
See my photos from La Jolla

Torrey Pines is considered one of the most popular State Parks in San Diego, making it one of the admired things to do in La Jolla. Since it is a popular place to visit, the hours between 10-1 tend to be the busiest hours of the reserve. Only 2.3 miles long, the Torrey Pines Beach Loop Trail is an easy hike, and is one of the most popular trails in the park. It is beautiful with amazing views along the way, and if you take the beach trail you will end up walking on the beach. Another popular but longer hike to try is Torrey Pines State Beach and Broken Hill Trail Loop, which is moderate and 3.3 miles. This is a scenic hike, where visitors have seen California Quail, Peregrine Falcon, and beautiful coastal flowers. The Reserve charges a fee to park in the main parking area, but it is free if you park along Torrey Pines Road and walk in. Torrey Pine State Natural Reserve consists of 2,000 acres of coastal state park land and is bordered by Torrey Pines Municipal Golf Course. It is also home to the beautiful but rare Torrey Pine trees.

7. Explore the Cave Store

Iconic view from inside the La Jolla Cave which has earned the nickname Sunny Jim's cave.
Iconic view from inside the La Jolla Cave which has earned the nickname Sunny Jim’s cave.
See my photos from La Jolla

Tucked away in La Jolla is a wood-shingled house, that is also a retail store and has a back entrance that descends into a beautiful sea cave. A tunnel was dug out in 1902 by two laborers, and it leads from the Cave Store, and down through the sandstone cliffs of La Jolla Cove. Rumor has it that during Prohibition, bootleggers smuggled alcohol into San Diego through the sea cave, when they carried it through this tunnel. Tours are about 15-20 minutes long, are self-guided, and include taking 144 stairs. Take the stairs through the store to the cave end for iconic pictures. If you frame your picture right as seen above, you can recreate the image from the old Sunny Jim commercial. This view has earned the cave its nickname: Sunny Jim’s cave. This is one of the cool things to do in La Jolla.

My Favorite Things to do in La Jolla?

I have listed some beautiful things to do in La Jolla, but my favorite by far is the third one: walking on Coast Boulevard and exploring the gorgeous La Jolla shore and seeing all the animals and birds. Our kids have always enjoyed how close you can get to the sea lions, as they have become accustomed with people at La Jolla.

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